I can’t remember whether I posted these before, but I found these photos kind of hibernating on my hard drive, and thought I might put them up for the world to see.
A year or so ago I did a shoot with friend and model Yamaguchi Akiko based on the theme of the Japanese art of Noh. Noh is a very restrained form of theater; it’s extremely strict and very centered on tradition, with next to no room for introducing modern theater elements. Watching it, one would be forgiven for thinking that nothing much was happening – it does indeed appear to move at glacial speed. An entire play can pass with you being mystified as to what happened, so it’s definitely seen as a kind of entertainment primarily enjoyed by the elderly population.
Anyway, one major element of Noh theater is the masks that the main actors use to portray the character they’re playing. The crafting of these masks is an art and each one is skillfully designed to change expression with each subtle tilt of the head. As such, they make great subjects for lighting. The two masks that Akiko is holding below actually represent the duality of the female character – in actuality they are supposed to depict the same female lead. The mask Akiko is holding close to her face is meant to show the normal, beautiful side of the female character, whereas the evil, demonic mask she’s letting dangle by her side shows the same female character when she’s in a rage. I’m sure a lot of guys out there can see how accurate these two depictions of the same woman are 😉 Apparently the idea is that each these two sides are an intrinsic part of each woman, which is great because the masks are such a good visual aid for representing duality. Here are some of the shots below, and some lighting information:
For most shots I just used an SB-900 in a large shoot-thru umbrella, but for times when I needed a little light to give detail to the luxuriant obi, or sash such as the one Akiko is wearing in the photos above and below, I used another speedlight with a Honl bounce card dialed in just enough to bring out the detail and nothing more.
In the two shots below the mask Akiko is using belongs to the cheeky old man character, so it doesn’t really below to the female duality series. We managed to have some fun with them though. It really is amazing how different lighting brings out different expressions from each mask! I definitely count myself fortunate to have had access to these masks.